Israel will launch ground invasion of Gaza – ambassador
Israel will go ahead with its plans for a ground operation in Gaza, West Jerusalem’s envoy to Moscow, Alexander Ben Zvi, told Russia 24 on Friday. He said that "the decision has been made."
“A ground operation is not ruled out,” Ben Zvi initially said when asked, noting that Israel has declared that it is in a state of war, which envisages “all sorts of operations, including air, maritime and ground” operations. The ambassador added that he believes the possibility of a ground invasion is “higher than 50%.”
Israel seeks the “destruction of all terrorist structures” of the Gaza-based Palestinian group Hamas, and also wants to free the hostages taken by the militants he added. “One cannot do that without resorting to a ground operation.”
His comments come just one day after Israeli Economy Minister Nir Barkat told ABC News that the government has given the green light to the military to start the offensive. “We shall do all efforts to bring our hostages [back] alive,” he said, stressing that destroying Hamas is the “first and last priority” – “even if it takes a year.”
The current escalation follows a surprise attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7. The initial assault and ensuing clashes between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claimed the lives of around 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, according to the authorities.
Israel responded with a massive bombing campaign against Gaza, resulting in almost 3,500 deaths as of Thursday, according to the Palestinian enclave’s health authorities.
Israel has warned that it would launch a ground operation in Gaza since the early stages of the escalation. The IDF said last week that they were ready to “expand the offensive,” including through an “extensive ground operation.” On Tuesday, however, the IDF’s spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hecht, told journalists that the military might take a different course of action.
The potential operation has sparked widespread concern. The African Union and Arab League both urged Israel to cease the hostilities on Monday. Egyptian President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah made a similar call on Thursday, warning of a potential regional catastrophe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that a ground operation would be difficult, and “fraught with serious consequences for all sides,” and the resulting civilian death toll will likely be “absolutely unacceptable.”